There are two distinctly different ways to experience the Waco
you can either listen to the country greatness
on a fine audio recording or you can step into a rocking little juke
joint and experience the band in all its glorious power live. The
latter is easily the better of the two experiences. While I have enjoyed
the Waco Brothers' recordings over the years, they are merely a shadow
compared to the intensity of the band live, much like The Mekons
before them. John Langford is a powerful force in the studio,
but on stage the man becomes a dervish, dishing out the rock like
no one else - not even men half his age - is capable of doing. Waco
Express is sixteen tracks of high-octane rocking country music
that perfectly documents a really great Waco Brothers' show.
This gig is energetic from the word go, with Langford leading the
Wacos into a frenzy of countrified rock on the supercharged "Waco
Express". The song embodies all that is great about the Wacos.
Crunchy guitars carry the song along a crest of tight drumming and
solid bass lines, while the pedal steel fills in the extra space and
Langford wails away about how "Everybody wants a sure thing these
days/Nobody wants to go out on a whim these days/Every time I hear
you asking for more, you better get more out on the floor
The bar is set high for the remainder of the show, and the band never
once disappoints. The set includes some hard-edged stomp ("Blink
Of An Eye"), rockabilly swing ("Plenty Tuff Union Made"),
blistering honky-tonk with some amazing pedal steel solos ("Red
Brick Wall" and "Hello Roof"), and Rolling Stones-influenced
blues ("Fox River"). Some band member quips, "We were
emo when emo wasn't cool
it's still not cool,"
and Langford preaches about the death of country music and how they'll
finally achieve it with this album before launching into "Death
Of Country Music." This track is probably one of the finest Waco
songs ever, with swinging rhythms and brilliantly sardonic lyrics
about the demise of the American art form, and in this live recording
features some amazing steel playing and Langford at his finest, spitting
venom and wailing away on the guitar. The true grit of country comes
out on the dark "Harm's Way", before the band gets super-sonic
on "Revolution Blues", with some of the finest guitar solos
of the evening, and then wraps the set with band introductions and
the classic honky-tonk of "Take Me To The Fire".
Waco Express is just one more rung in the ladder of alt. country,
proving that the genre is just as vibrant and alive as ever. The fact
that the Waco Brothers are almost single-handedly keeping it alive
at times is no small feat. The band is more powerful and more relevant
today than ever, giving the young and old something to hold onto.
I just wish there was a DVD accompanying the recording. The band is
excellent, but they're also a whole ton of fun to watch performing
live as well. Get yourself out and see them if you ever get the chance
it is well worth the price of admission.
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